Bible: What Does Jeremiah 21-3 Teach Us About God's Mercy and Judgment?
The "Big Three"
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Mercy to the Obedient Remnant
Next, Jeremiah responds to two officials—Pashhur and Zephaniah—sent from Zedekiah—Mattaniah, the uncle of Jehoiachin (Jeconiah/Coniah; cf. 22:24; 2 Kings. 24:17)—who desire Babylon to withdraw from the land (vv. 1-2), informing them of God's wrath against Jerusalem and her inhabitants (vv. 3-6).
Zedekiah’s destiny is no better, for although he will escape the "big three"— pestilence, sword and famine—he will die without mercy at Nebuchadnezzar's hand (v. 7).
Yet God will show mercy to the remnant, giving them an opportunity to remain alive if they surrender to the invading army.
Otherwise, they also will perish, and the city will be burned (vv. 8-10; see Deut. 30:15 and Jer. 45:5).
Yahweh also sends a message to the house of David (v. 11), commanding the inhabitants to "deliver him who is plundered" (v. 12).
God assures "the inhabitant of the valley" that He will punish him by fire (vv. 13-14).
[These people, believing that their status was out of harm’s way, were relying on something other than God].
Obey or Disobey: Your Choice
A similar, though expanded, message reaches the king of Judah directly in which Yahweh emphasizes that he not mistreat the most needy (vv. 1-3; cf. 21:12).
God offers this ruler a choice: he can obey, become prosperous, and have progeny on the throne, or he can disobey in which case desolation will result (vv. 4-5).
The LORD admonishes this "house" that, though they are precious to Him, He will destroy the city if they do not turn back to Him (vv. 6-7).
Their destruction will serve as a lesson to every nation: the LORD does not endure forever those who forsake Him for other gods (vv. 8-9).
[Breaking God’s first commandment will cause great disaster.]
Permanent exile is bitterer than death (v. 10).
Warnings to Three Kings
Then Jeremiah delivers three separate messages to the kings of Judah who reigned at the end of the southern kingdom: Shallum (vv. 11-17), Jehoiakim (vv. 18-23), and Coniah (vv. 24-30).
Yahweh pronounces woe against Shallum (Jehoahaz).
A covetous (vv. 14-15, 17), murderous (v. 17), and oppressive (vv. 13-17) ruler, he manifested the opposite character of his father, Josiah, who, by his works, proved that He knew God (vv. 15-16).
[Pharaoh Necho took Jehoahaz to Egypt where the latter died (v. 12; see 2 Kings 23:34].
For Jehoiakim, the LORD prepares an ignominious burial (vv. 18-19).
Because he refused to obey Him, this king would see the downfall of his “business” partners (vv. 20-23).
God calls inhabitants of Lebanon, Bashan and Abarim Jehoiakim’s "lovers" and his "rulers" (vv. 20-22).
Coniah receives a word similar to the one delivered to Zedekiah (v. 24; cf. v. 6).
Privilege does not preclude punishment.
Exiled with his mother, he will never return to Israel (vv. 24-27), and he will become a wretched man: despised, broken, cast out, childless, poor, and hopeless (vv. 28-30; cf. Matt. 1:11 in Ryrie's New Testament Study Bible)
[Alva McClain also includes a lengthy discussion of this important event (125-6].
Significance of the Branch Prophecy
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"Wolves in Sheep's Clothing"
Yahweh angrily announces woeful judgment upon unfaithful "shepherds" who have mistreated His "sheep" (v. 1; cf. 3:15).
He guarantees that His payment of their deeds will not please them, but He does not elaborate (v. 2).
Instead, He concentrates on positive, hopeful events: the return of the sheep to the fold, and their prosperity under faithful men (vv. 3-4).
These events may refer to Israel's return from Babylon or to their eschatological salvation, since the following prophecy relates to the reign of Messiah.
[The text provides highly significant data regarding the identity of this king.
He is human (a Branch of righteousness linked to David, v. 5) and divine (His name: the LORD our righteousness) v. 6].
Verses seven and eight reiterate an earlier statement the LORD made in 16:14-15: an oath describing a salvation which would surpass the Exodus in extent.
Jeremiah's grief over the faithlessness of his people, especially the prophets, continues to flow from his pen.
God's message within his soul—"Their sin has polluted the land"—makes him feel lightheaded—almost as if he were drunk (vv. 9-10).
Method of "Revelation"
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The Punishment of the False Prophets
Because Judah’s spiritual leaders persist in their profane "ways," God announces that He will bring disaster upon them (vv. 11-12; Ps. 73:18).
Foolishness, false prophecy, spiritual adultery, false witness, and neglect of moral exhortation—all these profanities dishonor the LORD and corrupt the nation (vv. 13-14).
For their punishment, Yahweh will force-feed the false prophets with bitterness (v. 15).
The LORD commands Israel to reject the message of these prophets because it is self-generated; it is not of divine origin (v. 16).
These impostors gather their own crowd around them to spread lies (v. 17; cf. 2 Tim. 4:3, 4).
As one who has heard Him, Jeremiah suddenly comes on the scene to present the truth: wrath is coming from the LORD (vv. 18-20).
[What does the prophet mean by “the latter days” in this context?]
Just as quickly, God speaks again, first denying sending these prophets and then asserting, "If I had sent them, they would have preached repentance" (vv. 21-22).
As the omniscient, omnipresent One, He knows what they are saying, because He is there in their midst (vv. 23-24).
[These two verses are powerful, indeed].
They claim to have received dreams from Him, but God says, ". . . they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart" (vv. 25-26).
By these dreams they seek to mislead Israel; they purpose to focus the minds of the people on these false visions and cause them to forget the LORD (v. 27).
Yahweh contrasts their "revelations" to His word. On the one hand, God’s message will surely bring about powerful results, having gone out like fire and been wielded like a hammer; on the other hand, the false prophecies are not even worth mentioning (vv. 28-29).
God adamantly declares His opposition to these messengers who, though claiming special revelation, prophesy falsely (vv. 30-32).
The final section revolves around seeking the "oracle of the LORD": a practice which God condemns.
He had already spoken via Jeremiah, whom the people rejected; therefore, only punishment awaits them—forsakenness, rejection, reproach, and shame forever (vv. 33-40).
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